A Special Recipe by Laura and Ellen Distelheim – Guest Blog and Giveaway

Long and Short Reviews welcomes Laura and Ellen Distelheim, daughters of the late Rochelle Distelheim, author of Jerusalem as a Second Language.


There is a moment in our mother’s novel, Jerusalem As a Second Language, when the protagonist, Manya Zalinikova, now living in Israel and experiencing a wave of homesickness for the Russia she’d left eight months earlier, finds herself longing for the “sour cream sprinkled over cinnamon scented blintzes the size of a thumb” that she’d last tasted in her native St. Petersburg. It comes as no surprise to us that our mother’s character would equate blintzes with home, because, looking backward from here, we often find ourselves doing the same thing.

Throughout our growing up years and, even more so, through all the years of our returning to our childhood home for visits — on holidays from college or from jobs in distant cities — one staple of our family’s week would be the Sunday brunches at which we would talk and laugh and linger and catch up on each other’s lives. And one staple of those Sunday brunch menus would be our mother’s blintz soufflé. She never claimed to have invented this recipe — she’d picked it up somewhere along the way — but she somehow managed to make it her own nonetheless, with an added sprinkle or two of cinnamon, or an extra dash of vanilla, maybe, and always, of course, with an overflowing dose of her love. We’re happy to share it here now.

Blintz Soufflé

12 Blintzes (any flavor)
1/4 lb. butter
4 eggs, well beaten
1 1/2 cups sour cream
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 Teaspoon salt
1 Teaspoon vanilla
1 Tablespoon orange juice (optional)

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Place the 12 blintzes in the buttered casserole to cover the bottom.

Mix all the other ingredients and pour over the blintzes.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Sprinkle cinnamon over it after it has cooled (optional).

It is 1998. The old Soviet Union is dead, and the new Russia is awash in corruption and despair. Manya and Yuri Zalinikov, secular Jews — he, a gifted mathematician recently dismissed from the Academy; she, a talented concert pianist — sell black market electronics in a market stall, until threatened with a gun by a mafioso in search of protection money. Yuri sinks into a Chekhovian melancholy, emerging to announce that he wants to “live as a Jew” in Israel. Manya and their daughter, Galina, are desolate, asking, “How does one do that, and why?”

And thus begins their odyssey — part tragedy, part comedy, always surprising. Struggling against loneliness, language, and danger, in a place Manya calls “more cousin’s club than country,” Yuri finds a Talmudic teacher equally addicted to religion and luxury; Manya finds a job playing the piano at The White Nights supper club, owned by a wealthy, flamboyant Russian with a murky history, who offers lust disguised as love. Galina, enrolled at Hebrew University, finds dance clubs and pizza emporiums and a string of young men, one of whom Manya hopes will save her from the Israeli Army by marrying her.

Against a potpourri of marriage wigs, matchmaking television shows, disastrous investment schemes, and a suicide bombing, the Zalinikovs confront the thin line between religious faith and skepticism, as they try to answer: What does it mean to be fully human, what does it mean to be Jewish? And what role in all of this does the mazel gene play?

About the Author:Rochelle Distelheim’s writing has been awarded the Gival Press Short Story Competition Prize, the Katharine Anne Porter Prize, the SALAMANDER Second Prize, numerous Illinois Arts Council Literary Awards, and a Ragdale Foundation Fellowship. Her work has been nominated several times for inclusion in the Best American Short Stories anthology, and she was a finalist in the GLIMMER TRAIN Emerging Writers Competition and the Pushcart Prize. JERUSALEM AS A SECOND LANGUAGE has received both the William Faulkner Gold Medal for Novel-in-Progress and the William Faulkner Gold Medal for Novel. Rochelle’s debut novel, SADIE IN LOVE, was published in 2018.

Buy the book at Amazon or Aubade Publishing.

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